Winning an MLL scoring title doesn’t make you the best lacrosse player in the world automatically, but a very strong argument can be made that this year’s winner, Ned Crotty, is the best lacrosse player in the world, at least right now. Let’s examine this assertion, and see if Sir Nedwick Crotty VII is truly the best our game has to offer.
By now, we all know Crotty finished with 50 points to Paul Rabil’s 49 and Brendan Mundorf’s 45. It was a down to the wire finish, and the title was decided in the last game of the season. Originally, the MLL’s point tracker (Pointstreak) said Rabil had won, but they went to the tape, and in the end, it was Crotty who won the title. Ned did it with one more game than Rabil, and one more game than Mundorf (12 games versus 11), and as opposed to Rabil (who is a middie), Crotty is an attackman. So yes, there are differences between the players, and how they scored their points, so we’ll have to go deeper than just looking at who put up the most points. We need to look at HOW they did it, and what that meant for their respective teams.
Photo courtesy Brine.com
Paul Rabil is the most obvious choice for top player in the game right now. He dominates lacrosse media and sponsorships, and is the defacto face of the MLL. He’s even a big name in the NLL, where he plays as more of a transition player, simply because of who he is. He is Paul Rabil, and you’ve all heard him roar. But PR99 also plays for the Boston Cannons, and they are simply a LOADED team right now. They have initiators, shooters, finishers and everything else. Ryan Boyle, Max Quinzani, Matt Poskay, Kevin Buchanan and Brad Ross make a formidable offense without Rabil, so when you add him into the mix, the Cannons O is extremely strong. I’m not trying to take anything away from Rabil here, but he certainly plays for a team that has a lot of options.
Brendan Mundorf was, in my eyes, the best dodging attackman in the game for the past 2 years. His sense of timing, his ability and willingness to go HARD to the cage and his fearlessness all made him extremely dangerous. His skill and ability to dodge lefty by right-handed defenders was beyond impressive. And he hasn’t lost a step. He’s still one of the best in the game. But like Rabil, Mundorf is also surrounded with talent when he plays for the Denver Outlaws. Guys like Max Seibald. Drew Westervelt, Peet Poillon, Billy Bitter and Bill McGlone surround Mundorf, and if those names don’t take some of the pressure off of Mundorf, I don’t know what would.
Is the supporting cast out in Denver and in Boston helpful to Rabil and Mundorf? Undoubtedly. And while it’s not the only factor for them scoring as much as they do, it certainly helps. Now when you look at the Rochester Rattlers, you don’t get quite the same impression. The six players (including Rabil) on the Cannons are all in the top 17 scorers of the MLL. They also have 3 players in the top 8. The six players on Denver are all in top 36 of MLL scorers, which isn’t that impressive, but they do have 3 in top 20, and the depth of Denver’s scoring is well balanced as guys like Connor Martin, Brian Langtry and Terry Kimener are basically after thoughts.
Rochester, on the other hand, has only two players in the top 20 for scoring, and besides Crotty, their top scorer is Matt Striebel with 25 points out of the midfield. He ranks 18th in the league, and that makes for a big gap in scoring punch. While Rochester does have 6 players in the top 31 (a little better than Denver), they are mostly towards the bottom of that list, and many are first, or second year Pros. These guys are not the experienced, battle-tested Pros that play in Denver or Boston. They are recent college grads, and even though they have been dropped into starting roles, the evolution of many of these guys as players is far from complete.
So yes, Crotty played one more game than Rabil or Mundorf, but he also did so on a far less talented team. That’s just reality. But Crotty beating Rabil by a single point, and then saying that makes Crotty the best, is still pretty meaningless, even if the playing field was completely level. So what am I saying here? I like Crotty’s style of play the best. I like what he brings to the table the most. He can do it all, does so with a flair and at times, just makes people look silly. Both Rabil and Mundorf can do similar things, but with Rabil it’s usually a show of brawn and power, whereas with Mundorf it’s more of a hard dodge where he forces his defender to commit one way or the other.
Crotty, to me, is just a little bit different, and in my eyes, just a little bit better. He makes players around him better, electrifies the crowd, and is always the focal point of the opposing defense. Big, hacky players, like Jack Reid of the Boston Cannons struggle to defend him mightily, and I don’t know if there is a better example than the 1:08 mark of the recent Lax.com video featuring the Rattlers and the Cannons. As Reid winds up for one of his patented slap slashes, Crotty just dices him up, and play like this is exactly what the MLL needs, and what a player needs to be successful in the league. Crotty finishes the play with a one-handed wrap shot as he moves away from the cage. The Cannons tried to counter this by putting the fleet-footed PT Ricci on Crotty, and even he struggled a little to keep up. Crotty definitely has the quicks.
But he’s not just a dodger, and if the slide had been on point, you can guarantee that Crotty would have found the open man. He did so 21 times during the regular season, and as he is often initiating from X, you know a lot of these weren’t just catch and pass or “move the ball along” assists. Crotty created, and made his teammates better.
While I would say that RIGHT NOW, at this very moment, Ned Crotty is the best player in the world, I can certainly see why people would argue with that assessment. His team finished 2-10 in the MLL. He didn’t run away with the scoring title. Maybe he got to take more reps than the other guys BECAUSE he was the best player on his team, and commanded the attention. But as 412 pointed out, Rabil took more shots than Crotty did. Crotty had a better SOG%, and a better scoring percentage when shots did go on goal. BY A LOT. And without him, I seriously doubt that Rochester would have won even one game. In the two games they did win, he went 4 (2,2) and 6 (4,2), while his season average was 4.17 points per game. He had a 7 point game, and never put up less than 2 points, and that only happened once. He scored 3 points or fewer only 4 times. Ned Crotty was dominant, and he was consistently so. Rabil was a little more erratic with more 7 and 2 point games, while Mundorf was even more erratic putting up 10 points in the first game of the season, and then putting up 1, 1, and zero points in other games.
I’ll take consistent awesomeness over jumpy, and at times, hyper production any day. The latter make headlines, the former win Championships. Ok, that was a total generalization, but the choice of “best player” is pretty personal and biased, so everyone has to make certain assumptions. I’ve just told you one of my big ones. Consistency is key. And this is really my lower-level basis for selecting Crotty as top dog. He just shows up. All the time. And by him “just showing up”, I mean that he dominates.
Ned Crotty has perfored at every level of field lacrosse. He was the best in college. The Tewaaraton and Duke’s first ever National Title in Men’s Lacrosse are proof of that on paper. If you saw him play in college, you have all the proof you would ever need stowed away in your memory. Remember when he played for Team USA in Manchester in 2010? He scored the game typing goal against Canada, and the eventual game winner to win Gold for the US. He scored 13 points to finish 4th on US team behind Mundorf, a Leveille and a Powell. Rabil was huge in the World Games as well for the US, but Crotty certainly made some noise, and the important thing is that they won it all as a team. And Crotty fit seamlessly in with this group, as the youngest player to boot.
Photo courtesy MllFans
I would not have written this post last season. Crotty’s 2010 MLL season was certainly good, especially for a rookie, but it wasn’t clear that he was going to adapt to the MLL. Well after this year, any doubt whatsoever has been removed from the equation. He has proved he is a force to be reckoned with, and should be a HUGE boost to Team USA in 2014 in Denver.
I don’t like to jump to conclusions, and I’ve thought about this for a while. With certainty, I can call Ned Crotty the best field lacrosse player in the world right now. And while I can see why others would disagree, or why they would say it’s too early to say this, or ask why I didn’t talk about box lacrosse players (we’ll save that for another day!) I actually think it just became true, or at least arguable. But from watching him play, I’d say it’s just the truth.